Clydesdale horses in a line - Horse breeds

Horse Breeds Around the World

There are many different horse breeds that can be found around the world. Some of these may be best-known in a particular country, where they’re utilized often. Others may be recognized around the world for their performance, much like the thoroughbred in the racing industry.

Horses are bred for various reasons. It may be for speed, strength, agility or temperament, or it may be for all of these things. All the different horse breeds can be broken up into three main categories: ponies, light horses and heavy horses. We’ll explore these further below.

Pony Breeds

Pony breeds tend to be hardy and able to carry more than their small stature may imply. They are often used as first mounts for children, but can also be ridden by adults and competed successfully. In fact, taller ponies are often in high demand in riding schools, as they can cater to children and adults alike.

Ponies are measured at fewer than 14.2 hands high. This is equivalent to 147 centimetres in height at the wither. One of the shortest pony breeds, the Falabella, sits around 7 hands in height or 70 centimetres at the wither. Ponies can be fine-boned or stocky, depending on the breed in question.

Pony breeds can be used for riding or pulling carts. Some ponies, such as those of the Shetland breed, have even been used in mines.

Examples of pony breeds include:

  • The Shetland Pony
  • The miniature
  • The Welsh Mountain Pony
  • The Falabella

Light Horses

Light horses can range from 14.2 hands high at the wither to up to more than 17 hands high. They’re utilized across a broad range of riding disciplines—dressage, racing, trail rides, show jumping, endurance and eventing.

Purebred light horses can be quite flighty and are referred to as hot-blooded. They come in a variety of different breeds and colours.

Examples of “light” horse breeds include:

  • The thoroughbred
  • The Arabian
  • The Quarter Horse
  • The Tennessee Walking Horse
  • The Morgan horse
  • The mustang

Heavy Horses

Heavy horses can range in height, much like light horses do. They may be 15 hands high at the wither, but can be as tall as 21 hands high. The tallest horse on record is a Belgian gelding, measuring 210.2 centimetres. You can read about Big Jake online.

Heavy horses are known for being cold-blooded. Generally, their temperament is extremely stable, and they’re recognized as dependable, as opposed to being reactive. They can be used for pleasure riding, competition and carriage driving. Due to their larger, stocky stature, they tend not to be used for high-level riding events such dressage and show jumping.

Examples of heavy horses include:

  • The Clydesdale
  • The Shire
  • The Percheron
  • The Belgian Draught

Baroque Horses

There are some horses that may be thought of as heavy, but they don’t fall into this “heavy” horse category. One example is the Baroque breed, the Friesian. These horses are unique for a few different reasons. Friesian horses can only be registered with the Stud Book (breed registry) if they meet strict movement, conformation and colour requirements.

Friesians need to be all black, with no white markings at all. If so, they may be accepted into the Stud Book, but if a stallion is accepted and goes on to produce stock that aren’t considered ideal for the breed, he can lose his status. Although black is the only colour accepted for registered Friesians, there are actually some chestnut Friesians found in the horse world.

The Crossbred Horse

Not all horses are purebred. In fact, there are many that are crossbred—a mixture of two or more breeds of horse. This may occur because the qualities of two particular breeds are appreciated, so two specific horses are bred to (hopefully!) produce a foal with the good qualities of each. Consider the Anglo-Arab as an example. This is a mixture of the Arabian and the thoroughbred. This is also the case for the Quarab, a Quarter Horse-Arabian mixed breed.

Crossbred horses have a lot to offer, and at times, are more suitable for a particular person than a purebred horse would be. When choosing a horse, it’s important not to ignore a particular equine because it isn’t purebred. Consider first what you need as a riding mount and why. A crossbred horse may be the perfect choice for you!

Choosing the Right Horse Breed

For all of the horse breeds on offer around the world, it’s important to choose the right one for your riding endeavours. There’s no point in choosing a pony that’s too small for you to ride. Likewise, choosing a horse for their colour is of no benefit, if they’re too flighty for you to handle. Choosing a horse breed should be dependent on what you want to achieve with your riding.

This, in turn, will be affected by your level of skill, how easily you can locate particular breeds of horses and, of course, how much you’re willing to spend. The breed of horse is less important than how easily you can gain the qualities you’re looking for in a horse.

These qualities may include height, temperament, years under saddle and even gender and colour. Once these qualities have been determined, then you may find that they’re compatible with a particular breed of horse. If not, it’s better to seek a horse that has the qualities you’re searching for, in spite of whatever colour or breed they may be. Again, a suitable mount is more important than one of a particular breed or colour.

Your Dream Horse?

The various horse breeds around the world are fascinating. Many people have their dream horse in mind, and often, that’ll line up with a particular breed and colour. That being said, the crossbred horse should never be overlooked!


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